Friday, October 01, 2010

Good to the Last Dropping

This post was written in very late September of 2007, but I am reposting it now, three years later, because of the development at the ... ummm... end.

So read to the end!

The Camera-Trap Codger went looking for Giant Sulawesi Palm Civets, and made acquaintance with the ratting terriermen of Sulawesi, complete with their garish print shirts, odd hats, and broken tools.

Ah, my kind of people! Click here to read that post.

Now, whenever I think of Palm Civets, of course, I think of coffee. What, you don't?

Ah, well then, you are probably not serious about your coffee. I live on coffee, lots of coffee. And no, I have no idea why I have sleep disorders. Complete mystery.

Anyway, in all the world there is a special coffee. It is better than Blue Mountain, or Kona Joe's, or Colombian Jungle Juice, or East African Mad Dance coffee. This coffee is so ... refined ... it costs $300.00 a pound, and just one cup in a fancy restaurant (if you can find it) will set you back $50.00 or more. This coffee is called Kopi Luwak.

The refining process of this coffee is special. So special that only about 500 pounds of this stuff are produced each year.

So how is it refined? Ah! Well ... ummm ... it is run through a civet. To be specific, it is run through the bowels of a Palm Civet. To be more specific, it is run through the bowels of the Common Palm Civet. If you ran coffee beans through the Giant Sulawesi Palm Civet, which is the kind of animal the Camera Trap Codger was hunting, I have no idea what you would get. Maybe espresso?

In any case, it seems the Common Palm Civet is all over Indonesia. They like to eat coffee fruit, and the beans that can be gleaned from their droppings make for coffee that is "good to the last drop." Or at least good to the last droppings. Or so the People With Too Much Money have been lead to believe by the locals who may be laughing all the way to the bank.

Now there are different theories as to why this coffee is so good. One theory is that the civet is incredibly discerning and only picks the ripest and best berries. No doubt this is true. The civet's gut also seems to remove some caffeine and harsh alkalies, and the bitterness that comes with them. In any case, the coffee that comes from a civet's rectum is supposed to be The Cat's Pajama's. Or at least the Cat's Ass. One idiom seems as good as another in this case.

Of course, to collect the special civet-mellowed beans, you have to find a lot of civet poop, poke through it, extract the beans, sterilize them, and then put them in a coffee mill. The result is supposedly the best cup of coffee in the world.

That said, I have a small question for the first guy in the world to try this: Bahar, what the hell were you thinking??!

And no, I have not yet tried it. But I would. I think. The problem is that about half the Kopi Luwak being sold in the world today is fake. It is not civet-produced. And my position on these kinds of things is very clear: If it's not the real thing, I'm not really interested.

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Addendum 2010:  It seems scientists studying the Common Palm Civet, aka Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, have decided that this animal is, in fact, three distinct species.  No word yet on what this will do to Sumatran coffee prices.
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  • For more on coffee and the environment (plus birds and the World Bank), see >> here


gabboon said...

my next career move: to be the guy who follows the civet with pail and scoop. or is that a ca-rear change? damn, I need my coffee.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I was with you until the "fake" part. Then I started wondering just how someone would fake it. With dogs? With child slave labor? The mind, like, boggles.

PBurns said...

A couple of bits:

** My understanding is that they are now keeping palm civets in cages and feeding them coffee fruit and collecting the feces (with beans) from pans below. A problem here is that the civet does not have the option of selecting the best fruit. Will cofee quality go down? I would bet.

** Fake Kopi Luwak may, in fact, be created with weak chemical solvents and maybe a rock tumbler. That's how I would would do it. Chemical solvents are already used to strip caffeine for defaf, and tumblers are used to sprout and rub certain kinds of seeds that otherwise need to pass through an animal gut to sprout.

** Assume all wine over $1,000 a bottle is fake. Amazing levels of fakery with wine. Thank God all those blonde woman on TV are 100% gen-u-ine. ;)